February 23, 2009

DMH Oversight Hearing- My testimony

Last Thursday, the DC Council's Committee on Health held an Oversight Hearing regarding the Department of Mental Health (DMH). It was a full house!

As I have been writing, DMH is in the process of privatizing their services for severely mentally ill residents. The plan could potentially improve the overall quality and cost-effectiveness of care received in the District, and the savings from privatization would allow the DMH to expand mental health coverage to more people. But in the course of transition, the care of 4,174 mentally ill individuals hangs in the balance.

This transition was a hot topic at the oversight hearing. Service providers and clients alike were on hand to express their concern. In response, Chairman David Catania repeatedly declared that he will maintain vigilant oversight over the situation, and that he won't allow changes that don't result in increased access to mental health services for DC residents.

I testified about this last piece--the importance of using the savings from the closure of the DC CSA to improve and expand the mental health system, especially through the creation of an Alliance mental health benefit.

"...the District has much to gain by ensuring that those who need less intensive care get the care they need. Early detection and treatment of mental illness can prevent or lessen the on-set of severe mental illness....[making people] more likely to maintain stable employment...more likely to follow prescribed treatment for both physical and mental health concerns. It is my sincere hope and recommendation that this committee does everything in its power to ensure that the savings are set aside for their intended purpose—to improve the public mental health system, including the establishment of a mental health benefit for Alliance recipients."

Take a look at my testimony and let me know what you think!

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